Thursday, May 29, 2008

fun in Mendoza with wine.



Emily and Arjie came to town for a quick visit and we had lots of fun together. After their 18-hour flight, we relaxed at home for a while and then we had a massage! what a great idea for tired travelers arriving after a long flight. This wonderful masseuse named Linnea came to our house, carrying her massage table, and gave each of us a 30-minute massage with beautiful lavender or eucalyptus-smelling massage cream. I wish she could come give me a massage every day.
After our massages I dragged the tired visitors out to Maria Emilia's birthday party, which was fun and led us from her house in Palermo to Sugar bar nearby on Costa Rica, and then to Club Podesta for dancing afterwards!
The highlight of the visit was a short trip to Mendoza via overnight bus (13 hours in comfy reclining sleeper-seats). We spent the first day recovering from the bus-ride and wandering around Mendoza, enjoying a sunny crisp fall day and strolling in the park. We had a great posh dinner at a place called Praga (Aguirre 413), yum. The second day we took an awesome wine tour with Ampora wine tours. They picked us up at our hostel at 8:45 am and brought us to four different vineyards to tour the facilities and sample wines. The tourguide was incredibly cute and nice and gave us lots of interesting info about the region and its history and the winemaking traditions in Mendoza. The focus of our tour was boutique wineries, so they were all smaller operations, each with a distinctly different type of facilities. My favorite was probably the first one, Bodega Benegas, which was very old-fashioned and had a chatty and informative tourguide. The most interesting thing we learned was that most of the wine producers in Mendoza used to ferment their wines in enormous underground concrete vats, which is why Argentine wine used to have the reputation of being cheap and mediocre, and also explains why older Argentines have the habit of drinking their wine mixed with soda water and ice cubes (to dilute the yucky concrete taste). Now these fancy places ferment their wine in imported cured french oak barrels which cost like $600 each! and each barrel can only be used one or two times before it loses its flavor and is sent to a lower-quality place. Anyway, there were lots of tasty malbecs and we had a delicious lunch at one of the vineyards, with a different wine paired to each dish. It was cool to learn more about how wine is made and how to enjoy it, although I still did not learn how to describe wine with words like "rustic" or "chewy" or "apricots" or whatever.



The only sad thing about the tour was the drizzly chilly wather and clouds which almost totally hid our view of the Andes. One of the most beautiful things about Mendoza is the rows of vines growing in the valley with the snow-capped Andes looming above, but we could only see the foothills on our visit. Nonetheless, our spirits were lifted high by many glasses of fancy wines, good company and tasty food.

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